The Maths 4 Primary Project aims to address backlogs in the Bachelor of Education (BEd) for Foundation Phase teachers-in-training. The project is a large-scale collaboration between six universities, including the University of Fort Hare (UFH) as project lead, University of Johannesburg (UJ), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), and University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). The project carries forward the outcomes of successful pilot projects at UJ and CPUT, as well as the Primary Teacher Education (PrimTED) Project run by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and supported by Zenex.
The Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development (NMI), situated at UFH, will be working collaboratively with partner universities. NMI has developed expertise in early grade African language literacy and Mathematics. Zenex has partnered successfully with NMI on several projects, including the Ulwazi Lwethu African Language Reading Materials Project and Mathematics in African Languages Research Project.
The Maths 4 Primary Project runs from 2021 to 2024. During this period, over 2 400 BEd students and 19 staff members at universities will be involved. Experienced initial teacher education (ITE) lecturers working with first-year students are engaged in establishing a Community of Practice to build capacity among other lecturers and tutors.
The project supports the teaching of early grade Mathematics in African languages, in line with progressive South African policies recognising the centrality of home language in early grade Mathematics. Maths 4 Primary is seeking ways to prepare student teachers for isiXhosa, Sepedi/Sesotho, isiZulu, Sotho, Afrikaans, and multilingual classroom environments. UFH is leading the integration of languages to help address limited capacity for training teachers on Mathematics pedagogy in African languages.
Both historically disadvantaged and advantaged higher education institutions are collaborating on Maths 4 Primary Project to ensure student teachers benefit across the board. Maths 4 Primary materials will be made available through Open Education Resources in print, online and mobile app versions.
Project evaluation takes a unique approach incorporating qualitative action research (instead of quantitative data only) to identify the processes of institutional commitment and change and review the resources and adoption of new modules in the curriculum. Qualitative data from students and lecturers is collected through surveys and interviews. NMI uses a mobile app to monitor the uptake of Maths 4 Primary resources.
The project objectives are to:
- Improve the knowledge of students who will teach Mathematics in primary schools by ensuring they have the required competency when they enter the classroom.
- Establish a Community of Practice among lecturers and tutors from universities teaching BEd students in early grade Mathematics to improve their capacity.
- Build a body of evidence and develop a greater understanding of effective approaches to overcoming Mathematics backlogs.
- Develop teaching materials and courses, including user-friendly modules delivered through traditional and online means integrated into the ITE curriculum.
- Collaborative development of modules on Mathematics additive relations; mental maths; early algebra patterns, functions, and relationships; and multiplicative reasoning.
- Improvement of lecturer capabilities in teaching Mathematics to student-teachers.
- Improvement in student teachers’ Mathematics content and pedagogy knowledge.
- Long-term take-up by other universities.
A key outcome of Zenex’s Strategy 2025 is “Tested innovations in ITE and uptake at system level”. Our strategy recognises that the current ITE curriculum does not adequately cover the teaching of Mathematics in African languages. Maths 4 Primary has immense potential to improve the BEd programmes of universities and ultimately the teaching of Mathematics in primary schools. Building the capacity of pre-service teachers is a long-term strategic means to transform Mathematics classrooms across the country.